Connecticut’s Agricultural Fair Season is Here
Stephen Anderson, Office of the Commissioner
Agricultural fair season has arrived once again, providing a family-friendly opportunity for residents and visitors to recognize and rejoice in the importance of Connecticut’s agricultural past, present, and future.
These fairs—some dating as far back as the early 1800s—bring communities together each year to celebrate the state’s agricultural achievements.
There are about 20 major fairs in Connecticut, including the Goshen Fair, North Stonington Agricultural Fair, Orange Country Fair, and the Woodstock Fair, to name just a few.
Major fairs are generally the largest fairs in the state, typically offering entertainment, amusements, rides and games, commercial exhibits, and mechanical or animal pulling events, as well as competitions and exhibits of livestock, fruits, vegetables, flowers, baked goods, needlework, handcrafts, and hobbies.
District fairs tend to be somewhat smaller than major fairs, both in size and exhibit capacity, but otherwise are similar to major fairs with respect to the competitions offered. Examples include the Hamburg Fair, Ledyard Fair, Riverton Fair, and Wapping Fair.
Connecticut is also known for its 4-H fairs (4-H stands for head, heart, hands, and health). Youth in 4-H programs manage and run these fairs for the purposes of displaying the work of 4-H members throughout the state.
4-H fairs have exhibits of livestock, fruits and vegetables, flowers, home arts, and other projects. There are several county 4-H fairs held each year, including Hartford, Litchfield, Middlesex/New Haven, New London, Tolland, and Windham.
There are also a number of local fairs, which generally are run by Grange associations, tend to run only one day, and typically have smaller amounts of exhibit space. Exhibits are usually fruits and vegetables, flowers and home art projects.
The Association of Connecticut State Fairs has a comprehensive list of contests and rules, and a fair events schedule, available on their website, www.ctagfairs.org.
To summarize, the various contests and events held at Connecticut’s fairs throughout the season include the following:
Antique Tractor Pull
Garden Tractor Pull
Mini Tractor Pull
Lawn Mower Racing
Antique Car Show
4-H Special Events:
Open Exotic Pet Show
Open Dog Show
Open Draft Horse Show
Trained Steer Course
Numerous fairs also offer fair-sponsored dinners. Contests and events vary by fair, so fairgoers should check individual websites for contest and event details.
To experience the diversity of Connecticut’s fairs and all they have to offer, be sure to visit not just major fairs, but the 4-H fairs, district fairs, and local fairs. Here are some fairs coming up over the next couple of weeks:
The Lebanon Country Fair, operated since 1959 by the Lebanon Lions Club, will be running August 9-11, 2013, at the Lebanon Fairgrounds, 122 Mack Road. The opening ceremony is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. on August 9.
The Lebanon Country Fair is a major fair, and offers a wide array of events that include, among other attractions, magic shows; rides; entertainment; horse and oxen pulls; the Miss Lebanon Pageant; a Frisbee dog show; a pig scramble, where children ages 8-10 compete in a contest to capture 10 pigs; dirt quad drag racing; and a nail-driving contest, where men and women compete for a three-pound canned ham by seeing who can be the first to drive three nails all the way into a board.
For those in the northwest corner of the state, the Winchester Grange is holding its Grange Fair on August 10, 2013, from 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m., on the beautiful Winchester Center Green.
The Winchester Grange Fair has many local vendors, games, entertainment, food, and a flea market. There are also exhibits of flowers, fruits and vegetables, baked goods, and collections.
The Hamburg Fair, located at the Hamburg Fairgrounds, 1 Sterling City Road in Lyme, runs August 16-18, 2013. The fair is sponsored by the Lyme Grange and has been running for the last 112 years.
Among its other attractions, the Hamburg Fair offers rides, entertainment, concessions, kids’ games, agricultural exhibits, an oxen pull, and a blacksmith demonstration. Gates open at 5:00 p.m. on August 16.
The 77th annual Hartford County 4-H fair also will be running August 16-18, 2013, and is located at the Four Town Fairgrounds in Somers. The fair opens at 8:00 a.m. on August 16.
Among its other events during the three-day program, the fair offers various contests for livestock showmanship and breeding, and shows of livestock, horses, llamas, alpacas, and dogs. There is also live music, a barbecue dinner, a movie night, a 5K road race, and crowning of a 4-H Fair king and queen.
So what makes all these great fairs possible? A lot of hard-working volunteers and organizations, such as the Association of Connecticut Fairs, the Connecticut State Grange, and the Connecticut 4-H Program, put in countless hours throughout the year to organize and execute these events for the enjoyment of all. Oftentimes, planning for the next year’s fair has begun before the current year’s fair has even taken place.
For many, these fairs are their first introduction to agriculture. Connecticut’s agricultural heritage is rooted in these fairs. They play a major role in the marketing of agricultural products and the businesses that support agricultural producers. The Connecticut Department of Agriculture encourages everyone in the state to support and participate in these events.